For the second consecutive year, the UC regents board is embroiled in an unnecessary and counterproductive controversy over the views of its student representatives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
On Wednesday, the regents voted to confirm the selection of Abraham “Avi” Oved, a UCLA economics major who will begin his senior year this fall, to be a student representative on the university governing board. Oved has previously served as the internal vice president of the campus undergraduate student government, and he was the selection committee’s unanimous pick for the regents board due to his thoughtfulness and boundless energy, committee members said.
But Oved is also an active member of student Jewish organizations at UCLA and an opponent of the movement to have the University of California divest its holdings in companies that do business with the Israeli military. That, regrettably, helped incite an effort to stymie his appointment.
Oved’s appointment comes during a period of contentious debate on UC campuses about the Middle East. Last year, for instance, the U.S. Department of Education exonerated UC Berkeley, Irvine and Santa Cruz of allegations of anti-Semitism in connection with protests that some Jewish students felt constituted harassment. This spring, Students for Justice in Palestine called on UCLA student council candidates not to take trips to Israel under the sponsorship of three pro-Israel groups.
College students should be encouraged to engage in civil and respectful debates on all sorts of controversial subjects, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But the resistance to Oved took a turn for the irrelevant and unreasonable. Opponents alleged that Oved may have received donations from Adam Milstein, a businessman and supporter of many pro-Israel organizations. But the contributions to Oved’s campaign, if there were any, didn’t have to do with his selection for the regents; they would have been for a previous race for student government. Besides, the student election code does not require the disclosure of funding sources.
Last year, this page supported the appointment of a Muslim student, Sadia Saifuddin, to the Board of Regents despite harsh objections from Jewish organizations because of her advocacy for divestment. Now, we support Oved as well.
The people involved in these squabbles should take a cue from the two student appointees themselves, who have, for the most part, said the right things. Oved said he would “reach out to communities that may have felt uncomfortable” with his nomination. And despite casting the only vote to delay Oved’s confirmation, Saifuddin welcomed the opportunity to work with him and to help guide him “through the myriad moral and political factors” student regents face.
The UC system faces a broad range of complicated issues that will require an immense amount of time and energy; this is not one of them. Let the real work begin.
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